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Thinking About Factions June 30, 2012

Posted by Stormy in Uncategorized.

I’ve always played Horde. When I started the game I didn’t know a single thing about the factions or their history, or the perceived reputation of Horde players as young, misbehaved PvP-oriented players and the Alliance as older, more virtuous, roleplay-oriented folks. I just knew that in order to play with your friends you had to play in the same faction they were, so I rolled Horde characters and joined their Horde guild. Over time, Orgrimmar became my home and the Horde became my home team. I have a bit of a loyalty streak in me–eleven months a year I could give a rat’s you-know-what about basketball, but when March Madness rolls around I inevitably end up watching some hoops and cheering for Michigan State because they’re the home team. While I started WoW with no particular allegiance to any particular side or particular character, I quickly became attached to Thrall and Sylvanas. When I started talking about WoW with coworkers and other real-life people, my response when it comes to faction loyalty has always been a hearty “BLOOD AND THUNDER! LOK’TAR OGAR!” The background on my desktop, iPad and phone is a Horde symbol. In short, I cheer for the home team and wear my colors proudly.

…I’m starting to re-think that.

One of the things I’ve been doing in the lull between expansions is catching up on the lore of Azeroth and Draenor. Until now I’ve never been a huge lore geek–I don’t lie awake at night pondering the whereabouts of Calia Menethil or the abrupt non-conclusion to the Neptulon story–but there comes a point where one becomes absorbed enough in WoW to start wondering, “Why…” instead of just “How…”. I started by reading the most recent books to get a clearer picture of what exactly is going on around me, and now I’m reaching back into the earlier days of the Warcraft universe in Tides of Darkness, which describes the birth of the Alliance and the Horde as we know it. It turns out that the Old Horde, the Horde of Orgrim Doomhammer, Gul’dan and Nekros Skullcrusher, were pretty horrible people and I’m not sure I want to have anything to do with them.

Sure, there are excuses aplenty. I’m sure I’d go a little nuts and develop a bloodthirsty imperialist streak if I drank the blood of Mannoroth, too. There is no excuse for what the Horde did to Stormwind, or what Garona (under demonic influence) did to King Llane Wrynn. There is no excuse for banding together an army of tens of thousands of orcs and forcibly taking control of the Eastern Kingdoms at the expense of innocent humans and dwarves. I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room and scream in disgust at the evils perpetrated against the mighty and gentle Alexstrasza at Grim Batol.

Is the Alliance innocent? Of course not. My characters have shed many tears over the Camp Taurajo massacre. I’m less than thrilled with the actions of Varian Wrynn, although much of that is traceable to his possession by the spirit of Lo’Gosh. But I couldn’t help but sympathize with the women and children of Stormwind, watching their city burned by bloodthirsty greenskins in the midst of conquest. I could only cheer for the dwarves of Aerie Peak as they worked to stave off the orcish invasion. The orcs and trolls were the aggressors, and the newly-forged Alliance were simply defending their territory and their way of life.

The previews of Mists of Pandaria have been pretty clear that in the next expansion our focus will return to the battle between the Horde and the Alliance. We still don’t know the reasons for or the extent of the burning of Theramore or the Siege of Orgrimmar, but the upshot seems to be that, more than ever, we’ll be forced to choose sides in the battle between the imperialist Orcish Horde and an Alliance on the defensive. Part of me wants to cry “BLOOD AND THUNDER!” as I always have, but I’m not so sure anymore.



1. Rush - June 30, 2012

Ahh, faction stereotypes. Funny that you mention those, because I’ve often heard them described exactly the opposite. (Except for the role-playing, but I have almost no experience with that, although I am curious about it)

As for the story, I tend towards thinking of the Old Horde (which was just the Orcs), is a totally separate entity from the current iteration. Sort of like holding modern-day German citizens responsible for the actions of the Third Reich. And in fact the massive internment/enslavement of the orcs in the time before WC3, could be argued as similarly atrocious behavior.

But that’s what I enjoy about the Horde/Alliance dichotomy. There is no clear hero or villain. Both sides are struggling to maintain their hold on the world. Each side has its noble aspects, and their more ruthless. I wrote a couple articles a year ago about the updated stories in Westfall and Silverpine, and while the Undead story is definitely more explicity dark, I feel the human story was more ethically problematic.

2. Stormy - June 30, 2012

On a completely unrelated note, Tides of Darkness contains an interesting passage about a Kirin Tor mage casting some sort of arcane lightning spell, and then lacking the power/wherewithal to do it again. Maybe I’m silly for never pondering it before, but it was the first time I’d ever considered what it would look like physically to go OOM.

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